Published on: February 3, 2024

President Wickremesinghe extends warm welcome to Thai Prime Minister, paving the way for bilateral talks

  • Bilateral discussion – Sri Lanka and Thailand Strengthen Bilateral Ties with Focus on Trade, Tourism and Cooperation.

In a gesture of warm hospitality, President Ranil Wickremesinghe extended a cordial welcome to the distinguished Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, Hon. Srettha Thavisin, and the accompanying official delegation at the Presidential Secretariat this afternoon (03).

After the gracious reception by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, a formal ceremony unfolded, where the Chief of Defence Staff accompanied both leaders to the saluting dais. Amidst the ceremonial ambiance, a Guard of Honour was awarded to the distinguish guests followed by a 19 Gun salute.

Subsequently the formal introduction of the delegations from both countries, President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Hon. Srettha Thavisin engaged in an exclusive one-to-one meeting, hosted at the President’s office. This intimate session facilitated discussions on various bilateral matters, fortifying the diplomatic bonds between Sri Lanka and the Kingdom of Thailand. The convergence of these two leaders underscores a shared commitment to open dialogue and enhanced cooperation between the two nations.

In a bilateral meeting held at the President’s Office, President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister of Thailand Hon. Srettha Thavisin reaffirmed the enduring and enriching relationship between Sri Lanka and Thailand, emphasizing centuries-old ties that transcend the formal establishment of Diplomatic Relations in 1955.

President Wickremesinghe highlighted the long-standing, deep-rooted friendly relations based on Theravada Buddhist linkages and robust cultural connections between the two nations.

The leaders discussed Sri Lanka’s new foreign policy approaches aimed at expanding relations with Southeast Asia and achieving deeper economic integration in the region.

President Wickremesinghe expressed appreciation for the signing of the Sri Lanka-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (SLTFTA), emphasizing its significance in the broader context of integrating with the ASEAN region economically. Sri Lanka aims to strengthen its export market in ASEAN and welcomes major investments from the region.

The President sought Thailand’s support for Sri Lanka’s bid to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), underlining the formal request made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

President Wickremesinghe highlighted untapped potential for trade and investment between the two countries. Opportunities for Thai investments in luxury hotels in the Colombo Port City and participation in the privatization of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were discussed.

Both leaders emphasized the importance of strengthening maritime cooperation, with a special focus on Thailand’s proposed land bridge project across the Isthmus of Kra.

The President expressed gratitude for technical assistance from Thailand, particularly through the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA). Areas of potential cooperation include packaging, ICT, agriculture, tourism, and support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

He also acknowledged Thailand’s past gifts of tuskers and pledged the safety and welfare of remaining elephants in Sri Lanka. Technical assistance from TICA on elephant welfare was also discussed.

Cooperation in the fisheries sector, including investment opportunities in supply chains, and collaboration in agriculture were also proposed during the meeting.

The leaders emphasized the need for close defence and security cooperation, sharing information and intelligence to curb transnational crimes. President Wickremesinghe also proposed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Cooperation.

Both leaders discussed enhancing Buddhist religious tourism, promoting maritime tourism, and improving air connectivity. Plans for a visa-free travel arrangement for normal passport holders were also on the agenda.

Collaboration in regional fora such as BIMSTEC, IORA, ACD, and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was acknowledged. Sri Lanka looks forward to strengthening IORA under its chairmanship.

President Wickremesinghe sought assistance from Thailand in repatriating Sri Lankan victims of human trafficking in Myanmar.

In closing, President Wickremesinghe reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment to consolidating bilateral relations with the Kingdom of Thailand.

The comprehensive discussions pave the way for deeper economic, cultural, and strategic cooperation between Sri Lanka and Thailand, marking a new chapter in their historic relationship.

Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Phumtham Wechayachai, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jakkapong Sangmanee and Thai Ambassador to Sri Lanka Paitoon Mahapannaporn graced the occasion, representing Thailand. On the Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and a delegation of ministers, along with Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayake, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, Secretary to the Prime Minister Anura Dissanayake and Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aruni Wijewardena, were in attendance.

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